The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation
Sixty Years of Service
“A new philanthropic spirit is spreading across the face of America, and now at long last Charleston has the machinery to organize its share of it for area-wide improvement.”
February 5, 1961
When the preceding words about The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation were printed in Charleston’s Sunday Gazette-Mail in February of 1961, the idea of bringing organized, community-driven philanthropy to the Kanawha Valley had been under discussion for a number of years. As early as May 1957, a group of leading area residents had been gathering to discuss “a proposed Resolution and Declaration of Trust Creating the Charleston Foundation.” Over time, the vision expanded to incorporate the communities surrounding and adjacent to Charleston, and so to better represent the endeavor, the name The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation was adopted in 1960. The first formal meeting of what would become the Foundation’s Board of Trustees was held on March 7 of that year and was comprised of Charles T. Jones, Sidney M. Kleeman, Reunah F. Randolph, Robert S. Spilman, Jr., and Thomas F. Stafford. Rugeley P. DeVan, Jr. joined the Foundation Board the following year and was named inaugural Chairman. Other leaders involved with the Foundation in its early years include W. E. ‘Ned’ Chilton, III, William Cooke, Rocco J. Gorman, Richard G. Guter, Harry Hoffmann, Charles W. Loeb, Fred Otto, John W. Partridge, James Phillips, L. Newton Thomas, Jr., and Charles C. Wise, Jr., among many others.
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation was formally chartered on April 3, 1962 when the National Bank of Commerce of Charleston signed the Foundation’s Declaration of Trust. The Kanawha Valley Bank and The Kanawha Banking and Trust Company would follow later the same year. A fourth, Charleston National Bank, was added as a trustee bank in 1964.
Formally chartered on April 3, 1962First contribution of $100
First fund endowed—
Frank A. Knight
“Never in the history of modern times has the welfare of mankind more urgently demanded the encouragement and promotion of gifts for charitable, benevolent, civic, moral or education uses...
“the trust or fund hereby provided shall be known as `The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.’”
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Declaration of Trust, 1962
The Foundation recorded its first contribution in 1962 – a gift of $100 from members of the Charleston Municipal Planning Commission in memory of Trustee Robert S. Spilman, Jr.’s late son, Robert S. Spilman, III. The following year, the Foundation endowed its first fund when, after policy changes concerning athletic eligibility for college students went into effect, the officers of the North-South Football Game, Inc. transferred its remaining funds to the Foundation. The more than $45,000 in funds received through this transfer established and endowed the Frank A. Knight Memorial Fund, with its proceeds designed to support the Children’s Museum in Charleston, and later, its successor organizations – Sunrise Museum and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia.
The earliest years following the establishment of the Foundation focused on showing potential donors the benefit of utilizing it to coordinate their charitable activities. The first public documents – “A Message to the Thoughtful Donor” and “The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, a Community Trust” – were printed in 1964 and made available at the Foundation’s trustee banks and the offices of area attorneys who worked in estate planning. To assist in spreading the word of the new Foundation, a community reception was hosted on December 7, 1965 for a selection of the Kanawha Valley’s most generous residents. This reception held at the Daniel Boone Hotel in Charleston featured Harrison Sayre, a founder of the Columbus Foundation and former president of the National Council on Foundations, as speaker.
First public documents
First community reception held
First grant—$1,000 to
Morris Harvey College
“The three great advantages of a community foundation [are] good investments, good administration, and flexibility – meaning that everyone, those of moderate means as well as the wealthy, can become a part of community beneficence with the satisfaction of knowing the proceeds of his contribution will continue...”
The Charleston Gazette
December 8, 1965
The reception was a resounding success, with a number of community members and organizations – The Daily Gazette Company, J. W. Herscher, Bernard H. Jacobson, and W. E. Chilton, II – contributing more than $45,000 to establish new funds. Many of these funds have continued to benefit the Greater Kanawha Valley community for many years, with the Bernard H. Jacobson Fund, for instance, providing nearly $2 million to support arts and cultural efforts in the region since its inception five decades ago.
The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation began its discretionary grantmaking program in 1965 with a grant of $1,000 to Morris Harvey College to support students in the school’s nursing program. This grant ultimately allowed more than a dozen students to further their nursing education over the following years.
Following its first decade, the Foundation commissioned its first printed Annual Report in 1971. This inaugural issue of the Annual Report noted that a number of generous donors had helped grow the Foundation’s assets to $291,000 by the end of the year, and the Foundation made grants in the amount of $6,331 during the same period. It was as part of this report that the Foundation’s renowned logo was first unveiled. The logo, which features a bridge spanning the Kanawha River with the silhouette of West Virginia’s mountains in the distance, was designed by Charleston artist Ellie Schaul and has stood as a symbol of the Kanawha Valley’s strong tradition of philanthropy for over 50 years.
First logo designed by Ellie Schaul
First Annual Report printed
“With sizable and steady growth in resources the Foundation continues to play an increasingly significant role in addressing the needs of the Greater Kanawha Valley community.”
L. Newton Thomas, Jr., Chair
1979 Annual Report
The Foundation’s second decade saw a number of exciting developments. A new generation of leadership brought their expertise to the Foundation, with such individuals as Stanley Loewenstein and W. Gaston Caperton joining the Board of Trustees, and following a significant contribution from the Schoenbaum family, the assets managed by the Foundation passed the $1 million mark for the first time in 1972. In the years since, proceeds from the Schoenbaum Funds have provided more than $750,000 to support projects across the Greater Kanawha Valley.
It was during the 1970s that the Foundation commenced its first large-scale project. Following receipt of a bequest totaling more than $650,000 made by the late Arthur B. Hodges, the Foundation embarked on a campaign to raise more than $1.5 million in additional funds to open a new nonprofit facility to serve area seniors. Thanks to those
generous donors, this project came to fruition in 1980 with the opening of the Arthur B. Hodges Center on Charleston’s East End. The Hodges Center continues today as a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center at Charleston’s Edgewood Summit.
The 1980s represented a period of rapid expansion for the Foundation, with its assets
growing from $1.6 million at the beginning of the decade to over $30 million at its end. This exceptional growth translated into increased grantmaking to the community the Foundation serves, with annual grant awards increasing from $100,000 in 1980 to more than $1.5 million at the end of the decade.
$1.5 million in leveraged funds enable opening of Arthur B. Hodges Center
first Executive Director
“The Foundation has become a great resource in our community for meeting a wide variety of needs and problems in an innovative and flexible fashion. It provides an effective way for individuals, business firms and private foundations to invest in the welfare of our community.”
Charles W. Loeb, Chair
1982 Annual Report
Though the Foundation had supported the educational expenses of students since its earliest days, the Foundation’s statewide scholarship program began in earnest in 1982 following the establishment of four scholarship funds – the W. P. Black Scholarship Fund, Mason Crickard Fund, W. Baker Hall Memorial Fund, and Kamm Family Fund. In the years since, donor-established scholarship funds have allowed the Foundation to provide more than 12,000 scholarship awards to West Virginia students and regularly provide more than $700,000 in scholarship funding each year.
For the first two decades of its existence, all operations, grantmaking, and administration of the Foundation was handled entirely by the Board of Trustees. Recognizing the need for day-to-day administration of the Foundation’s affairs, the Board established the position of Executive Director and named Stanley Loewenstein, a long-time member of the Board, to serve as the inaugural Executive Director on a volunteer basis in 1980. In 1983, the Foundation hired its first staff member, Administrative Assistant Elizabeth “Betsy”VonBlond, who would become the Foundation’s second Executive Director in 1986 following Mr. Loewenstein’s retirement. It was also in 1983 that the Foundation opened its first office at 1210 Commerce Square in Charleston, though its tenure in that location proved to be short-lived. Following a generous offer from the Clay Foundation to house TGKVF rent free at its location at 1426 Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston, the Foundation moved its operations there in 1987.
Elizabeth VonBlond first staff member, later Executive Director
Offices move to
1426 Kanawha Boulevard
Assets increase to
more than $30 million
“The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation provides the means through which donors, volunteers, and staff acting together make the Greater Kanawha Valley a special place.”
G. Thomas Battle, Chair
1990 Annual Report
The Foundation’s growth continued through the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade, assets under management were near $30 million. By the decade’s close, the Foundation assets had tripled to $95 million, and, perhaps most astonishingly, the Foundation’s total grantmaking from its launch in 1962 through the last day of the decade – $30 million – surpassed the total of the Foundation’s assets under management at the decade’s beginning.
One of the Foundation’s most important strengths, evident since its earliest days, has been the ability to identify projects with the ability to transform life in the Greater Kanawha Valley. Recognizing such a project, the Foundation made its largest grant to date in 1996 to what would become the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia. This grant of $2.5 million helped the Clay Center open its doors to the public in 2003.
As is the case with organizations of every type, the Foundation has changed over the years. Many of those changes came toward the end of the 1990s. Following her years of service to the Foundation, Ms. VonBlond stepped down as Executive Director in 1998, and Becky Ceperley was appointed to serve as President and CEO beginning in 1999. Ceperley would lead the Foundation with great integrity until her retirement in 2016, growing the Foundation’s assets to $225 million, its professional staff to ten, its community outreach through dedicated capacity-building efforts for area organizations, and its strategic partnerships through membership in the Appalachian Funders Network, Kanawha Valley Council on Philanthropy, and Philanthropy West Virginia.
Offices move to
Huntington Bank Building
Becky Ceperley named
President and CEO
“The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation seeks to foster community ownership, to invest for the future, and to make a real difference.”
Stephen R. Crislip, Chair
2002 Annual Report
Another change to the Foundation in the 1990s was the decision to move its operations from its long-time home in the Clay Foundation’s building to an office suite in the Huntington Bank Building in 1997. This spaced would serve as the Foundation’s home for more than 20 years.
Through the continued generosity of its supporters and donors, the Foundation has continued to grow at a rapid pace. In 2004, the Foundation accepted its largest contribution to date – $57 million from James F. B. Peyton, with proceeds to support charitable endeavors in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Assets under the Foundation’s management passed $150 million in 2007, $200 million in 2013, $250 million in 2019, and $300 million in 2020. Altogether, at the end of 2021, the Foundation’s assets had grown to exceed $329 million.
It was during the Foundation’s most recent years that it has made some of its most significant gifts. In recognition of the Schoenbaum Family’s commitment to the community, the Foundation made a gift of $1 million to support the establishment of the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center, which opened its doors in 2002. Growing from its commitment to strengthening the healthcare infrastructure in the region, the Foundation provided two significant grants to Charleston Area Medical Center – a gift of $1 million in 2012 for the CAMC Cancer Center and another gift of $350,000 in 2021 to support the construction
Grant to support establishment of Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center
Largest grant to date —$2.5 million—to support construction of Clay Center
Grant to support establishment of CAMC Cancer Center
“The Foundation is becoming more than just a source of funds; it is also a capacity-building resource that helps nonprofits to strengthen their operations, build infrastructure, and develop leadership.”
Charles W. Loeb, Jr., Chair
Michelle Foster, Ph.D., President & CEO
2017 Annual Report
of the CAMC Center for Learning and Research. The most recent large-scale project the Foundation has supported is the renovation of the Kanawha County Public Library’s main branch in downtown Charleston, which concluded in 2022. The Foundation’s contribution of $1 million helped to facilitate a full-scale rehabilitation of the library’s historic building and the construction of two new wings.
Following Becky Ceperley’s retirement, the Foundation appointed Dr. Michelle Foster to serve as President and CEO in 2016. Dr. Foster’s tenure has been marked with rapid growth of the Foundation in all areas, with its assets passing $329 million, its professional staff growing to thirteen, an increased presence and visibility in the community, and a renewed focus on reaching areas traditionally underserved. Emblematic of this approach is the active effort the Foundation has taken under Dr. Foster’s leadership to strengthen equity in its grantmaking, communications, and capacity-building efforts for the community, most notably through hosting the Summit on Race Matters in West Virginia in 2020 and 2021.
In 2020, following several years of planning and an extensive restoration project, the Foundation moved i ts operations to a new home at 178 Summers Street in Charleston, theformer location of B&B Loans and the Dupont Hotel. Through its move, the Foundation has joined a number of significant projects – the redevelopment of Slack Plaza into a community greenspace, the renovation of Kanawha County Public Library’s main branch, and the
Dr. Michelle Foster
appointed President and CEO
Offices move to
178 Summers Street
Grant to support establishment of CAMC Learning and Research Center
Through the work of hundreds of trustees, staff, and volunteers and the remarkable generosity of thousands of donors, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has served the community well, always focused on the north star of making the Greater Kanawha Valley region a great place to live, work, and build community.
establishment of a business improvement district to encourage future development, to name a few – in contributing to the ongoing revitalization of Charleston’s downtown community. The new ground-level office suite will allow the Foundation the opportunity to better serve the community for many decades to come.
For 60 years, through all seasons, through times of sustained growth and challenging market conditions, through the work of hundreds of trustees, staff, and volunteers and the remarkable generosity of thousands of donors, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has served the community well, always focused on the north star of making the Greater Kanawha Valley region a great place to live, work, and build community. From the first gift of $100 received in 1962, the Foundation’s assets have grown to $329 million at the end of 2021. From the first grant of $1,000 made in 1965, the Foundation has gone on to grant a total of $165 million since its inception. And though we mark the close of the Foundation’s first 60 years, we look forward to the next, knowing that, whatever may come, the Foundation and those it serves will rise to meet the occasion.
– History compiled and authored by Derek Vance
Grant to support renovation of
Kanawha County Public Library